Food for thought and thoughts about food

By Cordell Thomas, Chief Impact Officer for United Way of the Inland Valleys

Face it, one of the most expensive budget items is food for the family. It is tempting to save time and energy by going to the drive thru or ordering delivery. But, do you really save time and energy by making these choices? Money smart meal choices can be difficult because our lives are constantly rushed at work and at home. Without a budget and a week-long plan for food you increase the risk of wasting money.

By developing a plan, and menu of meals for the week, you can both:

• Mitigate your spending at the grocery store by only getting things that are necessary, and

• Prevent purchasing things that will spoil because of the time it spends sitting in the refrigerator.

Easy-to-make meals exist. It just takes thought and a plan. If you have the right foods and recipes at home, you will have the right elements that can be turned quickly into meals. This also means that you will be less tempted to stop in at fast food places. Yes, it is faster to pick up the food, but far more expensive. You can easily spend upwards of $45.00 for a family of four on a fast food meal. Instead, check out the cost of preparing the food at home. The cost per person for meal preparation at home will be significantly less than the dining out or fast food option.

According to the Real Cost Measure for Riverside County the cost that 1 adult must budget for food annually is $3,324. For 2 adults, $6,660, and for a family with 2 adults, 1 school aged child and 1 infant, the amount more than doubles to $13,368.00.

So when it comes to saving a little on food, the first thing you should think about is looking at your budget and developing a plan for your spending. Consider that the average restaurant spending on a yearly basis is approximately $3,000 - imagine what you could do with even a portion of that money! With a plan in hand, you can limit overspending, and develop a strategy for shopping, which would include:

• The wisdom of NOT shopping on an empty stomach

• Not bringing the kids along (if safely possible), and

• Knowing when you should head to the supermarket for the best bargains

Believe it or not, there is a day of the week that is better than all of the rest. Thoughtful budgeters find that it is more economical to shop after the grocery list fulfillment on Wednesdays. According to AOL’s Rebecca Walden, this day is when many grocery stores release new sale ads, but also honor the previous week’s sales items, which means more sales items from which to choose.

So think about Wednesday nights. Nights because “This is the time when perishables are typically reduced for quick sale”, according to Gord Crowson of MyGroceryDeals.com. Of course you should always double check with local stores to be certain.

A final 5 points about grocery shopping.

1. Go with a LIST

2. Go with a PLAN

3. Consider the value of COUPONS

4. Watch the LABELS

5. REMEMBER! It’s about your PHYSICAL and FINANCIAL Health.

Kimberly Starrs